In a land of contrasts of desert and city, antiquity amongst modernity, I discovered so much beauty and vibrancy. Although I was only there for five days it was enough time to get a taste of the UAE (United Arab Emirates). I was fortunate enough to experience both Abu Dhabi and Dubai and would liken them as: Abu Dhabi the older sister, full of culture slightly demure yet still city, while Dubai the younger sister, full of excitement, vivacious and abundant in choice. Both cities steeped in tradition with a large dose of “first world in your face lifestyle”.
Landing at the insane hour of 3am, I began my journey at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club to attend the Ladies Who Lunch bi-annual event www.ladieswholunchuk.com. Located on the grounds of the Westin Hotel, the golf house is amicably placed close to the property entrance. While it’s an amazing place to golf, with beautifully manicured courses, as a non-golfer, I was interested in their event space, a perfect place to host a wedding shower or to host your wedding party.
The Traders Hotel, http://www.shangri-la.com/abudhabi/traders/ part of the Qaryat Al Beri complex is a beach side property located on the Persian Gulf, next door to the Shangri-La hotel and Souk and from their beachfront facing the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi. The minute you enter the lobby, you know that you have arrived somewhere special. A bright, airy and colorful lobby greets you. The front desk staff is noticeably polite and helpful. I upgraded to the club level access with a lovely superior room accompanied by a great sea view. My favorite feature is their pillow range; specifically the husk filled pillow. The inclusive breakfast buffet is delicious. The club lounge presents basic but tasty light food, wine and beer. Their beach terrace comes alive at night with alluring lighting and a backdrop of enticing cabanas. If you dine outside you feel the ambience of the Arabian Sea breeze against your skin.
Not to be missed is the luxurious Emirates Palace, but be sure to book a table in order to not be refused entry, along with a safari desert tour. The jewel of Abu Dhabi is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a great homage to Islamic architecture; you can only be in awe of its splendor. Women are expected to wear an abaya and men need to wear long pants. Don’t worry, if you are inappropriately dressed, the correct attire will be provided. No shoes can be worn in the mosque. The mosque is resplendent in beauty and a pure reflection of Islamic culture, plain and simple on the outside and yet beautiful on the inside. Sunset is awesome there and with impeccable views you are lost for words for the magnificence that beholds you. Although a symbol of religion, a wave of respectful serenity exudes from this masterpiece.
Hello Dubai, brash and busy with an enviable skyline to New York, where I experienced a one-bedroom apartment set in the residences at the Ritz-Carlton International Financial Center. http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/DubaiIfc/Default.htm
It was outstanding. My favorites are Cara restaurant for breakfast and lunch and the indoor and outdoor Terrace Number 5, which hosts a ladies Sushi night on Wednesday—not to be missed. The decadent five star spa and the relaxing rooftop swimming pool are excellent features for this city hotel. While the views aren’t great, the ambiance is made up in many other ways. Let’s just say, as expected, the Ritz-Carlton does not disappoint!
Dubai has a hot nightlife and Tuesday night is ladies night, which includes free drinks and attracts opportunistic men. My favorite is Armani/Prive located in the Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world. With all the mod cons of a glamorous LA nightclub, size and glitz to go with it. Boosting a huge screen with a fun DJ pumping out hottest dance music. The luxurious setting also has marble counters but beware – no glasses are allowed on the marble!
If you think you have shopped till you dropped, no one has anything on the malls in Dubai. Both the Emirates and Dubai malls are probably the size of an American football pitch, vast and seemingly never ending. Anything you ever wanted is there but be advised it’s about 30 percent more expensive than the UK! Bear in mind the malls serve a purpose of shopping, fine dining, clothing, department stores, movies and even an Aquarium in the Dubai mall.
Dubai has an impressive infrastructure. An extraordinarily affordable and efficient public transport system to be envied by any first world country. You may be in the desert but with all of the first class amenities, impressive technology and an expensive price tag to go with it you recognise that this is probably luxury at its best!
Michelle Lowe is an Event Planner who was based in New York and is now living in London, UK. She runs her own events company Yolobespoke and is a seasoned traveller. Michelle writes as a travel editor for World Bride Magazine primarily for Europe and some parts of the Middle East and Asia.